What Can't Wait
by Perez, Ashley Hope

Marooned in a broken-down Houston neighborhood-and in a Mexican immigrant family where making ends meet matters much more than making it to college-smart, talented Marissa seeks comfort elsewhere when her home life becomes unbearable.

Marisa loves AP calculus, and she is good at it. But her overbearing father, a Mexican immigrant, always reminds her that familia comes first. That means picking up extra shifts at the grocery store, where she works to help pay bills, and babysitting her adorable niece, who distracts from schoolwork. This is Marisa's senior year, and she has a shot at a great engineering school, but her supportive teacher doesn't seem to comprehend the cultural conflict she is creating by pushing Marisa's college dreams. Even Marisa's new boyfriend doesn't understand her struggle to aim for a better life. Although it has the potential to become a book version of Stand and Deliver, by focusing on Marisa's determination in the face of quiet disapproval from her mother and outright opposition from her father, Pérez removes the cliché and creates a relatable character who is unraveling under the pressure to support her family at the expense of her dreams. This solid debut deftly explores the daily struggle of some students to persevere in the face of long odds. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

If only 17-year-old Marisa Morena could figure out her future in her Houston barrio as well as she solves calculus problems. How can she even think of entering the engineering program at UT-Austin with so much going on? She's needed to watch her young niece so her sister (with no insurance) can work a double shift to pay off her husband's hospital bills, she has plenty of shifts of her own every weekend at the grocery store and her illiterate, immigrant father constantly reminds her that "Girls and numbers don't mix." And as if she doesn't have enough "fucking problemas," what with tiptoeing around her stubborn father and trying to please her needy mother while squeezing in secret AP Calculus practice sessions, the teen watches her peers get pregnant and married (in that order) and wonders if staying in Houston can be "good enough." First-time author Pérez fills a hole in YA lit by giving Marisa an authentic voice that smoothly blends Spanish phrases into dialogue and captures the pressures of both Latina life and being caught between two cultures. With help from a boyfriend with similar desires, a supportive teacher and an unexpected hand from her family, Marissa learns to put her own goals first in a hopeful but never too-tidy ending. Un magnifico debut. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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